August 21st, 2016 11:44 pm Category: Profit Vehicle Planner, by: Steve Cutler
In December of 2014 Microsoft officially discontinued their popular mapping and routing software Microsoft MapPoint. With a number of internally developed products that make use of MapPoint it quickly became obvious that the time had come to modernize these applications to make use of more modern cloud-based technologies. After assessing the different options available to us we came to settle on using Bing Maps as a replacement of the now defunct Microsoft Map Point.
Out of the box, the Bing Map API provides developers with AJAX controls that can easily be embedded in a website. And with the addition of the Bing Maps Representational State Transfer (REST) API, developers can easily add address geocoding, calculate routes (including turn by turn directions) from multiple points and even factor in current traffic levels to the calculated drive time. And to make things even better, Bing Maps is all cloud based so our users no longer have to worry about how current their maps are.
Bing’s Mapping API brings a lot of different features to the table and Telerik adds substantially to the offering all while cutting down on the amount of code a developer has to write to get things going. And since the Telerik controls were already included in the project this also saved us from adding yet another dependency to the mix.
All-in-all this solution provided huge benefits to us in terms of reduced footprint, the ability to customize controls and map behavior, reduce the amount of code required to do common tasks like geocoding an address or plotting a route on the map. And best of all our applications now enjoy a certain measure of being “future-proof”.
March 6th, 2014 9:32 am Category: Operations Research, Optimization, Optimization Software, Profit Network, Profit Vehicle Planner, Profit Vehicle Router, Supply Chain Improvement, Supply Chain Optimization, Supply Chain Planning, by: Jim Piermarini
In the recent weeks, I have been thinking about testing our applications, like our popular Profit Network, or Profit Vehicle Planner. When we test, we run data sets that are designed to stress the system in different ways, to ensure that all the important paths through the code are working properly. When we test, our applications get better and better. There are many good reasons to test, most importantly, is to know that an improvement in one part of the code does not break a feature in a different part of the code.
I have been thinking about how we could test our code a bit more, and the means by which we could do that. I have been reading about automated testing, and its benefits. They are many, but the upshot is that if the testing is automated, you will likely test more often, and that is a good thing. To automate application testing requires the ability to churn out runs with nobody watching. And to do that, the application needs to be able to be kicked off and run in a way that there are no buttons or dialog boxes that must be manually clicked to continue. There can be no settings that must be manually set, or information reviewed to decide what to do next. In addition, the application must then save the results somewhere, either in the instance of the application, or to a log file, or to a database of some sort. Then finally, to really be testing, the results must be compared to the expected results to determine the pass/fail state of the test. This requires having a set of expected results for every test data set.
In looking at this process above, I see numerous similarities to the process used to run a sensitivity analysis, in that many runs are typically run, (so automation is a natural help) and the results need to be recorded. Sensitivity Analysis is a typical process for user of our Profit Network tool, and out Profit Planner and Profit Scheduler tool. An additional step in sensitivity analysis however, is that you may desire to change the input data in a systematic way (say Demand + 5%, and Demand -5%), and to the extent that it is indeed systematic, this too could be folded into the automation. The results analysis is different too, in that here you would like to look across the final sets of results at the differences, while in testing you just compare one set of test results to its expected results. I can foresee difficulty in automating the data changes, since each type of data may need to be changed in a very specific way. Never-the-less, even if the data changes are manual, they could be prepared ahead of the run, and the runs themselves could be grouped in a batch run to generate the results needed for a sensitivity analysis.
Constructing a harness that lashes up to an application where you can define the number of runs to be made, the setting for that run, the different data sets to be used, and the output location for results to be analyzed, would be useful not only for testing, but for the type of sensitivity analysis we do a lot of here at Profit Point.
I am going to encourage our developers to investigate this type of a system harness to be able to talk to and control our applications to be able to run them automatically, and have their results automatically stored in a data store for either test or sensitivity analysis.
Jim Piermarini | CEO Profit Point Inc.
July 30th, 2012 12:56 pm Category: Enterprise Resource Planning, Global Supply Chain, Network Design, Operations Research, Optimization, Profit Network, Profit Vehicle Planner, Profit Vehicle Router, Risk Management, Supply Chain Improvement, by: Jim Piermarini
There is nothing like a bit of vacation to help with perspective.
Recently, I read about the San Diego Big Boom fireworks fiasco — when an elaborate Fourth of July fireworks display was spectacularly ruined after all 7,000 fireworks went off at the same time. If you haven’t seen the video, here is a link.
And I was reading an article in the local newspaper on the recent news on the Higgs: Getting from Cape Cod to Higgs boson read it here:
And I was thinking about how hard it is to know something, really know it. The data collected at CERN when they smash those particle streams together must look a lot like the first video. A ton of activity, all in a short time, and a bunch of noise in that Big Data. Imagine having to look at the fireworks video and then determine the list of all the individual type of fireworks that went up… I guess that is similar to what the folks at CERN have to do to find the single firecracker that is the Higgs boson.
Sometimes we are faced with seemingly overwhelming tasks of finding that needle in the haystack.
In our business, we help companies look among potentially many millions of choices to find the best way of operating their supply chains. Yeah, I know it is not the Higgs boson. But it could be a way to recover from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that disrupted operations literally overnight. It could be the way to restore profitability to an ailing business in a contracting economy. It could be a way to reduce the greenhouse footprint by eliminating unneeded transportation, or decrease water consumption in dry areas. It could be a way to expand in the best way to use assets and capital in the long term. It could be to reduce waste by stocking what the customers want.
These ways of running the business, of running the supply chain, that make a real difference, are made possible by the vast amounts of data being collected by ERP systems all over the world, every day. Big Data like the ‘point-of’sale’ info on each unit that is sold from a retailer. Big Data like actual transportation costs to move a unit from LA to Boston, or from Shanghai to LA. Big Data like the price elasticity of a product, or the number of products that can be in a certain warehouse. These data and many many other data points are being collected every day and can be utilized to improve the operation of the business in nearly real time. In our experience, much of the potential of this vast collection of data is going to waste. The vastness of the Big Data can itself appear to be overwhelming. Too many fireworks at once.
Having the data is only part of the solution. Businesses are adopting systems to organize that data and make it available to their business users in data warehouses and other data cubes. Business users are learning to devour that data with great visualization tools like Tableau and pivot tables. They are looking for the trends or anomalies that will allow them to learn something about their operations. And some businesses adopting more specialized tools to leverage that data into an automated way of looking deeper into the data. Optimization tools like our Profit Network, Profit Planner, or Profit Scheduler can process vast quantities of data to find the best way of configuring or operating the supply chain.
So, while it is not the Higgs boson that we help people find, businesses do rely on us to make sense of a big bang of data and hopefully see some fireworks along the way.
Isn’t that one of our main objectives in life, whether the setting is business, participation in sports, your personal life?
I see part of our role at Profit Point as helping our clients to achieve their potentials. We do this by applying mathematical techniques to find good solutions to the problems that business leaders face. Many of our clients call upon us when their business is going through a time of transition, particularly when there is a merger of organizations.
Analyzing the potential for facility rationalization is one of the standard uses of our Profit Network infrastructure planning software. We, and clients, have used this software to decide how many plants, production lines and warehouses they need to best serve their customers in many different types of situations.
But mergers present opportunities to organizations further down the supply chain as well, of course. Many companies use vehicles to deliver product to customers on a regular basis, and when there is a merger (and at other times) well-run businesses are looking for ways to ensure that these types of activities are carried out efficiently.
Our Profit Vehicle Planner (PVP) software can help in planning for a merger at that next level down – for instance, when you have two organizations serving customers in a metro area, how do you combine them together?
The diagrams below give you an idea of the situation a company might face. They have operations in various parts of the country, serving hundreds of customers in each area. Their Southern California customers might be spread as in the pattern in the diagram below on the left.
To serve these customers they currently have five route territories, covering the customer deliveries, as is shown in the diagram on the right.
Now they plan to merge with a smaller competitor in the same type of business. The acquired company has customers in southern California with a similar spread across the geography, divided into two territories, as is shown in the diagrams below.
PVP will allow the analyst to look at all of the customers together,
and in this case, when the territory planning algorithm runs, it finds that deliveries can be made in six more-compact route territories, covering all customers. Separately the two companies had seven territories – and merged they have the potential to serve them with six – thus saving a truck and various associated expenses. The merged solution is shown below.
Implementing this merged solution can help the company better achieve its potential – for profits.
Upgraded Vehicle Route Planner Software Improves Decisions in Distribution Planning, Fleet Sizing, Driver Productivity and Transportation Cost Reduction
Profit Point announces the introduction of Profit Vehicle Planner™ 3.1, a major upgrade to our distribution analysis and design software. Profit Vehicle Planner is designed for Strategic Logistic and Transportation Managers that have large fleets with multiple daily delivery stops and changing logistics processes. The software update includes a combination of new features and technical enhancements which combine to support richer scenario modeling for larger large fleets with multiple daily delivery stops and changing logistics processes.
Designed to be highly accessible and customizable, Profit Vehicle Planner (PVP™) uses standard Microsoft business tools for calculation and display of information, including Excel, Access and MapPoint. The software automatically creates and designs the optimal sales/distribution territories. It does this by dividing customers into territories and days of service, with each territory representing the volume delivered by one delivery vehicle and one driver over the course of the planning horizon. The objective of the proprietary heuristic algorithm used in Profit Vehicle Planner is to assign customers to territories that will minimize the number of trucks required to serve the customer volumes while delivering within the various common and business-specific constraints, including customer frequency of service, hours available per day, volume available per truck, unique equipment requirements and virtually any other custom constraint required.
“With 12 years in the field, Profit Vehicle Planner has been put to the test against some of the world’s largest supply chain distribution problems,” noted Jim Piermarini, Profit Point’s Chief Technology Officer. “Transportation best practices have expanded over time, so decision makers are looking for more comprehensive strategic logistics and transportation modeling solutions.”
With the new release, PVP’s expanded features include extensive customization of the software to tailor the territory planning solution to be cost and time effective to meet your unique and specific distribution requirements and the ability to use imported address data to automatically geocode customers for whom lat/long data is missing.
For companies that perceive distribution as mission critical, users have the option to integrate PVP deeply into their supply chain systems to import and export data in to their ERP system. Companies that seek the most cost-effective solution have the ability to import virtually any relevant data from an Excel template that includes the following:
- Customer data such as address, location, frequency of service, volume per stop, time required per stop, other data as needed
- Truck data such as size, days of the week that it is available, order in which it is to be scheduled, hours available each day, special equipment, other data as needed
- Warehouse and district data such as location and characteristics of associated trucks and drivers
- Time related data such as start date of planning horizon and number of weeks in the planning horizon.
- Product specific data such as unit of measure of the product being delivered
- Any other data required to accurately model unique constraints
Once optimized, users have the ability to review and assess the characteristics of the territories that are created using tables and maps to provide an enhanced visual experience. And to ensure the optimal distribution plan, users can manually move customers from one territory to another or from one service day pattern to another (e.g. from Monday-Thursday to Tuesday-Friday), if desired.
Applying Lean Logistics Principles in Combination with Tactical Software to Improve Distribution Transportation Planning
May 23rd, 2012 3:56 pm Category: Distribution, Green Network, Profit Vehicle Planner, Profit Vehicle Router, Supply Chain Agility, Supply Chain Improvement, Supply Chain Planning, Supply Chain Software, Transportation, Vehicle Routing, by: Richard Guy
As the competitive environment changes the way companies do business, transportation managers are embracing lean principles mixed with tactical planning software to support cost reductions and quality improvements. Applying lean initiatives to supply chain and logistics operations is one method that allows businesses to reduce cost, but the marriage of tactical planning software with lean principles introduces a new approach and additional opportunity to eliminate waste.
Lean is a team-based form of continuous improvement that focuses on identifying and eliminating waste and increase of speed and flow of an operation, such as distribution of products. Waste can be defined as activities that do not add value for the customer.
A short waste target list for a distribution transportation planner may include the following:
- Underutilizing employees or behavioral waste
For example, managing a large delivery fleet with a relatively fixed, repeating delivery pattern will benefit from an optimal territory planning and routing solution. Since lean adds emphasis on waste, non-value added work, queue times, to traditional process analysis, improving the distribution and routing plan for a company’s fleet can eliminate waste in all of the above categories.
Selecting strategic territory planning software that will optimally divide a customer region into geographical “territories” based on customer delivery requirements can be an important first step in the lean process. Think of each territory is a contiguous area containing the customers that will form a single route, or a regular pattern of routes, over a day, week, month or other time period. Lean solutions can include optimal delivery territories shaped to minimize total travel and to equalize the delivery workload for drivers.
Most software packages utilize geographical mapping software such as MapPoint or Google Maps to generate a solution that will minimizes total travel miles while meeting customer service and delivery requirements. Some of these tools can also be personalized and customized to meet specific business requirements. Planning tools that create both territories and routes in a single integrated package appear to be the most popular.
Before implementing the territory planning software solution, let’s compare the results to the target list of waste. Transportation waste is minimized. Drivers (“employees”) become more productive since they now have a delivery territory designed to adhere to the driver profile, which may specify shift time and driving break intervals. Routes are optimized, so there is no more wasted motion time. Routes can be built to ensure sufficient inventory is available at all stops. Natural boundaries such as rivers, mountains, canyons and man-made boundaries such as rail tracks, major highways, canals can be model to create optimal delivery territories that are bounded by these constraints, thereby eliminating driver waiting to go around these obstacles.
In summary, managers that use transportation routing and territory planning software are following the lean principles to identify and reduce waste. Implementing the solution can potentially reduce transportation costs by 5% to 20% by decreasing miles traveled and increasing on-time delivery while dramatically increasing driver productivity. Lean principles when married to tactical planning software can be competitive weapons and a great advantage in tough economic times. Start considering lean logistics principles in conjunction with territory planning software applied to distribution transportation problems as opportunities to reduce waste.
Profit Point, a leading supply chain optimization company, today announced the introduction of Profit Vehicle Planner (PVP) and Profit Vehicle Router (PVR). PVP, a sales and distribution application designed to service large, nationwide operations, includes territory and cycle planning tools, as well as vehicle routing functions. PVR is designed for businesses that need to optimize their vehicle routing, but do not need the territory and cycle planning features that are included in PVP.
“Many people don’t realize that recent advancements in supply chain technology now allow low cost integration of sophisticated mapping tools to make daily planning activities fast and easy,” noted Jim Piermarini, Profit Point’s Chief Technology Officer. “Rising fuel prices have put pressure on every distributor. By combining advanced optimization algorithms with today’s mapping tools, our clients are able to make significant cost reductions while improving customer service levels.”
Profit Point’s PVR software is a streamlined route optimization tool that enables complete distribution analysis by daily routes. PVP includes all of the features of PVR and adds a number of territory planning functions to meet the needs of regional, national and international distributors. Both products are designed to reduce equipment and fuel costs, overtime pay and increase the volume of product delivered per driver.
“Delivery costs represent a significant percentage of our overall distribution expenses,” said Ken Burkey, Logistics Manager of DS Waters. DS Waters is the U.S. leader in home and office water delivery, including 26 manufacturing facilities which delivers to millions of homes, offices, retailers across the country. “Profit Point’s software and optimization expertise has enabled our company to easily reengineer our distribution plan to cuts costs and improve customer service.”